Some of John Cassavetes’ work ages badly. His affinity for wrecked lives and avant garde camera — at times drunkenly off-key — can overstay its hard welcome.
But this examination of psychosis something else again. Nick Longhetti (Peter Falk) is a hardhat with a mentally unstable wife. She is Mabel, Gina Rowlands in her peerless prime. His sincere but incomplete sensitivity and her palpable madness give “Woman” the ominous tearing of a late Sylvia Plath poem. The ardor of the couple’s catastrophe plows psychological territory only ambitious Europeans ordinarily take on, with mixed results.
It also contains among the most startling scenes in American cinema in which a besieged and sobbing Mabel implores her father to defend her from Nick’s verbal abused during a family dinner. “Stand up for me,” she begs. Bewildered, he finally stands up.
Only dark-side-of-the-cocktail lounge Cassavetes assaulted literalism with such vivid abandon. Considering the “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head” era in which he worked, that’s no small accomplishment. An imperfectly magnificent film.